Released: 2011, Ulterium Records
Have you ever had an album that you listen to once and it doesn’t catch your ear then you revisit it later and it suddenly, instantly, magically clicks? Then you kick yourself for not hearing it the first time around? That happened to me with Theocracy’s third album, AS THE WORLD BLEEDS. I heard it when it came out late last year, and I liked it, it did make my Top 100 for 2011, but I wasn’t completely blown away. Then I read an on-line review of another Theocracy album and the young hipster writing the review just slammed the band and I thought to myself, ‘They aren’t THAT bad!” so I revisited the album again with fresh ears and WOW…am I glad I did! Now I AM completely blown away! I’m so glad I gave AS THE WORLD BLEEDS another chance and I wanted to share my thoughts with you gentle reader.
The opening track is worth the price of admission alone. Normally I don’t micro-analyze songs in my reviews, I prefer to let the readers appreciate the music in their own way, but this song is so strong, I want to talk about it. It is an ambitious and brave move for the band to open the album with their magnum opus, the 11 minute long song ‘I Am’. Most bands save their long song for the final song, but this song is so strong it had to be first. ‘I Am’ is a diverse and dynamic composition that reminds me of Savatage, with it’s many moods and paces. The lyrics are essentially a list. I love ‘list’ songs. The lyrics are reminiscent of the Savatage song ‘Believe’, loosely based on scripture eg. I am the way. I am the light, I am the dark…” The lyrics speak of the power of Christ and yes, Theocracy is Christian but certainly not preachy in their lyrics, just very positive. The vocal cadence is remarkable and at the 6:00 minute mark there is a great multi-tracked, multi-layered, vocal harmony part again similar to Savatage as heard on the song ‘Chance’ from HANDFUL OF RAIN. I’m not suggesting that Theocracy mimic Savatage, not at all, but I did notice the similarity in the design of the song which is quite rare, very few bands use that style and so when you hear it, it is very noticeable. There are symphonic flourishes, little hints of celtic influences, some acoustic guitar, and a huge, operatic chorus with layers of vocals and several ripping solos. There are really techy, stop-start parts at around the 7:45 minute mark that would be comfortable on an old Mekong Delta album. The piece ends with huge gang vocals, sweeping keyboards and monster drumming to an exhilarating speedy finale. ‘I Am’ is one of the better songs I’ve heard in a long time, I really cannot recommend it enough.
The hour-long, ten-song album goes from strength to strength. The next two cuts are more streamlined and economical and either could have been the traditional ‘speedy’ opening song on a conventional album. As this is the first Theocracy album being reviewed on this site they can very comfortably described as Epic Power Metal, our bread and butter for this site. They have touches of progressive elements but always firmly rooted in Metal, fast drums, heavy guitars, solid riffs, lots of solos and the soaring vocals of who is a chameleon of James LaBrie, Zak Stevens and Michael Sweet. His strong powerful voice carries the album to places an ordinary singer could not, showing great versatility and range.
Theocracy have really evolved from founder and guitarists Matt Smith’s one-man project into a fully fledged powerhouse of a band. This is easily the best album they have done. The production is clear and loud, the pace is intense and all the choruses are magnificent, I wish I fully embraced this album earlier it would have been Top 10 material for sure. Annual rankings aside, it’s never too late to enjoy a superb Metal album.